Before the Cubs hosted the Indians in the final game of 2016 at Wrigley Field Sunday night, a young fan skirted across the upper deck concourse wearing a Kyle Schwarber jersey and a black sponge taped to the base of his chin.
That's how much kids want to be like "America's large adult son," as Deadspin has started calling Schwarber.
There's something about Schwarber and his blue-collar Midwest style and lovable frat dude aura that has endeared the Cubs slugger to Chicago and, over the last week, to the nation as well as his legend grows.
That "something" will be back in the Cubs lineup for Game 6 Tuesday night (and Game 7 Wednesday night if the Cubs can pull out a win) in Cleveland, not far from where Schwarber grew up in Middletown, Ohio.
Despite a stunning return to the active roster for the World Series, Schwarber was not cleared to play the outfield and as such, led to only one plate appearance by "America's large adult son."
Now, with the designated hitter returning as an option, the Cubs will get the boost Schwarber provided when he went 3-for-7 with a double, two RBI, a run and a pair of walks in the first two games in Cleveland.
And that's from a guy nobody even thought would step on a field in 2016 after a horrendous knee injury on April 7.
“His inner drive – you can’t measure that,” outfielder Chris Coghlan said. “It’s not a skill that you can measure and people can quantify by watching him. It’s just an inner desire. And not everybody has that. That’s what makes him special.”
Schwarber's mere presence is an emotional boost to a Cubs offense that has struggled mightily to find consistency over the last two playoff series.
The Cubs have been shut out in four of the last nine postseason games and managed just five runs in the three World Series games at Wrigley Field over the weekend.
"Any bat like that can play," Dexter Fowler said. "A bat like that - impact bat - is definitely awesome to get back in the lineup."
It's funny that this is even such a major storyline. Everybody's excited about a guy who's had 15 plate appearances since spring training?
But that's the magic surrounding Schwarber right now, and his teammates believe.
"He's back and I'm sure he's chomping at the bit," Anthony Rizzo said. "He's going to have big at-bats Tuesday and he's going to be ready for it and he's got all of our confidence behind him.
"It'll be nice, especially [in Progressive Field], where it's a shorter porch to right. It's supposed to be a little warmer there - 76 [degrees]? Oh my gosh."
Relegated to cheerleading duties for much of the historic weekend at Wrigley, Schwarber kept his anxiety at bay by taking swings throughout the game, running to the indoor batting cage as many as five times to ensure he'd be ready if that big pinch-hitting opportunity came up.
During the Cubs' pressure-packed, tense 3-2 win in Game 5, Schwarber said he was bouncing off the walls in the dugout and clubhouse. When Jason Heyward scaled the right field wall to make a ridiculous catch on a foul pop-up, Schwarber said he exploded.
For now, the big left-handed bat is just focusing on the off-day, projecting a sense of calm while standing at his locker and fielding questions from reporters.
But underneath the surface, Schwarber is relishing the chance to be able to help his team on the biggest stage, to go to war with those guys in the clubhouse after a year of adversity.
"Yeah, [there's anxiety there]," he said. "I missed the whole year. So for me to be able to step out there with them again and go to battle with them, it's gonna be fun."
Schwarber - who already is the Cubs' franchise leader in postseason homers (5) - dismisses any notion of pressure.
"I just think that once it comes to game time, once you're in between the lines, you're in between the lines," he said. "There ain't no guessing. It's go out there and battle."
And as for the facial hair?
"I always joke," Schwarber said, "if I shave it off, nobody would recognize me anymore."